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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Finnie warns on disease complacency
Foot-and-mouth sign
Scotland has been free of the disease for three months
The biggest obstacle to wiping out foot-and-mouth in Scotland is complacency, farming minister Ross Finnie has warned.

Mr Finnie said the drive to resume livestock exports was under way, although no early decisions were expected from Europe.

He said talks about re-entering overseas markets for livestock were ongoing, despite restrictions placed on seven farms in the Borders which have had contact with an infected farm in Northumberland.

He also outlined details of a welfare disposal scheme for lambs which will start next Monday and run until late October.

Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie
Ross Finnie: Tentative discusions
Mr Finnie said the disease had been contained across Scotland and any recurrence had so far been prevented, adding that the objective of reaching disease-free status north of the Border could be achieved shortly.

He said: "Hopefully, we should be able to do this next week. The burden of movements and other controls has been relaxed progressively with further possibility of this due once Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders joined the rest of the country."

But he insisted there was "a great deal of misunderstanding going around about our case for exports".

He said: "Given the severity of the outbreak that we had in Scotland, the early tentative discussions held at official level made it absolutely clear that not just the UK but Scotland would be treated very differently from other cases of outbreaks, such as, for example, Northern Ireland where there were only a few cases.

"It was made very clear that before we presented our case we had to have very substantial evidence to demonstrate that we had contained and were on course to eradicate the disease. That point is imminent."

One of the major lessons to be learned from foot-and-mouth is that farming practices will have to embrace biosecurity as part and parcel of their normal day-to-day operations.

Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie
The minister said he would be seeking a meeting with EU food safety commissioner David Byrne in Brussels and added that Scotland's case would be pressed at the next meeting of the Standing Veterinary Council on 11-12 September.

He insisted the "biggest obstacle to us achieving disease-free status" was complacency in the agricultural and livestock sectors over biosecurity measures.

"If we are talking about lessons to be learned from foot-and-mouth disease, it's that special arrangements are not simply put in place after you've had an outbreak of this disease," Mr Finnie said.

"One of the major lessons to be learned from foot-and-mouth is that farming practices will have to embrace biosecurity as part and parcel of their normal day-to-day operations.

"I urge everyone in the industry to take this message very seriously indeed and I repeat that this is not just a message for today but for tomorrow and the future of Scottish farming."

Jim Walker, leader of the National Farmers Union in Scotland, has called for the introducton of disinfection points along the Border as a further measure to counter the disease.

Scottish NFU leader Jim Walker
Jim Walker: Warning to farmers
He also warned that Scottish farmers had started to ignore biosecurity advice and were putting the industry at risk.

Mr Walker said: "The fact that this week farms in the Borders have been put on Form D notices as a precaution against the disease being transferred from infected farms in Northumberland shows that we are still vulnerable to reinfection.

"Tougher action needs to be taken."

He called for disinfection centres to be set up about 10 to 15 miles from the Border which all "high risk" vehicles should go through to be cleaned.

Mr Walker said similar schemes using car wash-type systems had been successful in Ireland and Holland, where those who flouted the rules were fined up to 5,000.

He warned: "We're an accident waiting to happen unless we can do something to protect ourselves from this transfer across the Border."

Mr Walker then attacked farmers who, he said, were failing to follow hygiene rules.

He said "Biosecurity is something that has slipped in the farmer's mind.

"This is the most virulent disease that you can imagine and it can transfer through the movement of people and vehicles.

Mr Walker also announced a campaign urging ministers to tighten up import controls to stop infected meat getting into the country.

Isabel Fraser reports
"Pressure is growing for a decsion on disease-free status"
See also:

28 Aug 01 | Scotland
Fears over farm disease contact
27 Aug 01 | Scotland
Vigilance call for Scottish farmers
20 Aug 01 | UK
Cattle back on sale
20 Aug 01 | UK
Six months of farm misery
28 Jul 01 | Scotland
Scotland 'free' of foot-and-mouth
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